21 December 2010

Italian Sprinkle Cookies

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been so busy with baking Christmas cookies that I’ve neglected my intention of posting about some of them.  On the day of the big December storm (storm - part 1, Dec. 11th) I spent the entire day in the kitchen and did manage to tweet some pictures and comments about my activities. A couple of friends asked specifically for this recipe, so I thought I’d better get it written up to share. Better late than never, right?

 I’ve seen recipes for these Italian Sprinkle Cookies in numerous cookbooks and magazines over the years and have always been intrigued by them. The comments that accompany the recipe always have a variation on the theme of “they take some effort, but are worth it.” I didn’t feel that they were an inordinate amount of work, but they do necessitate some good timing – get those sprinkles on the top of the cookies quickly or they won’t stick. That glaze dries fast! 

The cookies have a mild flavor that intensifies as they sit, which I believe is why the instructions tell you to let them rest for 24 hours before storing them. I did a taste test as soon as they were cool and wasn't too impressed. When I tasted them again the following day the flavor had improved and deepened dramatically. They've got a simple, uncomplicated flavor.

This particular version of the recipe comes from Taste of Home’s Christmas Cookies (2003) pull-out recipe card book, one of those little gems found at grocery store cash register counters everywhere. It was a great purchase, as I’ve made and enjoyed numerous treats from it…

Hope you enjoy these too!

For some reason I can't change the orientation of the picture, so tip your head to the right...

Italian Sprinkle Cookies

6 eggs
5 cups flour
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp + 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup shortening, melted
1 Tbsp almond extract
1-1/2 tsp lemon extract

1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-3/4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar
Colored sprinkles

Using a heavy-duty/stand electric mixer on high speed, beat eggs until light and foamy, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and baking powder; gradually add shortening and extracts until a bead-like texture forms.  Gradually add beaten eggs. (Note: dough will be stiff and sticky, and the flower/shortening beads will not all dissolve or incorporate into the dough – think of it much like a pie crust where these will become flaky pockets in the finished product.)

Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls and place on ungreased, parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the bottoms just begin to brown slightly (the tops should not brown though).

To make glaze, combine milk and extracts in a large bowl. Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.

As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, immerse them two or three at a time into the glaze; remove with a slotted spoon and place on wire rack to drain and cool. Quickly, while glaze is still wet, top with sprinkles.

Let dry 24 hours before storing in airtight containers.  Makes about 9 dozen cookies.

10 December 2010

Five Simple Rules to be Happy

Nice to remember not only during the holiday season, but all year through. I actually have these posted at my desk where I can see them every day. The challenge is to not overlook them or let them become invisible...

  1. Free your heart from hatred
  2. Free your mind from worries
  3. Live simply
  4. Give more
  5. Expect less

08 December 2010

Mom's Sugar Cookies

It can’t be Christmas without ____

Do you have one cookie (or other treat) that it just can not be Christmas without? The one that screams out to you, “It’s here!"?

As much as I love to bake this time of year – and even better, love to try out new recipes – the one that must make an appearance is my mom’s sugar cookie recipe. 

This is not one of those rolled, cut out, and then slathered in icing sugar cookies (although I can appreciate those as well…). These cookies are delicate, buttery, lighter than air, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The only decoration they require is a pressing of red or green colored sugar before they’re baked.

Make these. You won’t regret it… and neither will your family and friends. If you choose to share. You might not. They’re that good. Luckily this recipe makes a pretty big batch, so go ahead. Share. ‘Tis the season, after all.

One warning though: they’re also to-die-for delicious straight from the freezer - some in my family even claim that they're better frozen! So freezing them won’t deter you from eating the whole batch before you know it.

Let me know what you think… and enjoy!

Mom's Sugar Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup butter
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 1/2 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, beat together powdered and white sugar, eggs, oil, and butter until light and creamy.  In a separate bowl sift together flour, soda, salt, and cream of tartar.  Add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla. Beat until well combined.  Refrigerate dough for at least two hours.

Roll dough in 1” balls and place two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten each ball with a drinking glass (or other flat, smooth item) that has been dipped in sugar to approximately 1/4” high.  Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes until just set and barely starting to brown. Let cool on baking sheet for a minute or two before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.